Information for families on the limited supply of infant formula
On this page
- Current situation
- What Health Canada is doing
- Types of infant formula
- What to do if you cannot find your usual formula
- Related information
Health Canada understands that any disruptions to the supply of infant formula can be distressing for parents and caregivers and shares their concerns. We have been working, and continue to work, with manufacturers to increase the types and amounts of infant formula products available in Canada, but we are aware and share the concerns of parents and caregivers who continue to have difficulties locating particular products or formats.
We continue to do all that we can to ensure that the supply of infant formula continues to improve. The shortage of hypoallergenic infant formula has largely subsided, with the supply being relatively stable, meeting ongoing needs. However, some families may experience shortages of certain infant formula. Health Canada continues to do everything it can to improve the situation to provide families with the infant formula they need.
An important infant formula manufacturing facility in the United States closed for several months following a product recall in February 2022. This facility produced several popular products that accounted for a significant portion of the Canadian infant formula market which resulted in part in the limited supply of infant formula we are currently experiencing in Canada. Although the facility reopened in July 2022, it has not yet returned to its normal production capacity. This has increased the demand for infant formulas produced by other manufacturers.
During the critical shortage of specialized infant formula in the summer of 2022, Health Canada alleviated the shortage by facilitating the importation of formula from other countries and recommending that specialized formulas be ordered through a pharmacist to make sure they were available for babies who needed them. The shortage of hypoallergenic formulas has now largely subsided and is replaced by a limited, but stable supply.
For regular infant formulas, while the total supply remains sufficient to feed all babies in Canada, there are fewer products and formats available, as manufacturers work to compensate for an increased demand for their products. In particular, the lower cost options, such as store brand powdered formulas, have often been out of stock since the fall of 2022. Although comparable products from other brands continue to be available, these may be more expensive, and this can be challenging for families who are also facing other pressures. Powdered regular formulas imported under the interim policy are now reaching shelves at some retailers across the country. This can provide additional options and may help alleviate some of the pressures experienced by families in Canada.
A voluntary recall was issued by the manufacturer in March 2023 for three lots of Nestlé Good Start Soothe, a regular powdered infant formula. Batches of this product that are not affected by the recall are safe and will continue to be available across the country, although in smaller quantities. We understand that this situation might create additional challenges for families needing to switch formulas again however, comparable products are available on the market in Canada and some examples are listed below in the section Try a different formula.
What Health Canada is doing
Health Canada is monitoring the availability of infant formula products closely and continues to take action to minimize the effects on Canadian families.
Health Canada meets regularly with manufacturers, distributors, retailers and the health care community to:
- raise awareness
- facilitate increased production
- facilitate the importation of formula from other countries
- reduce or eliminate barriers to providing rapid and fair access to infant formula
To help alleviate the lack of certain infant formulas, Health Canada has been working directly with manufacturers to increase the supply of formulas normally found on the Canadian market and to identify alternate products that can be imported from other countries. On March 22, the Minister of Health, the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos also personally spoke with Reckitt, Perrigo, and Abbott—three major manufacturers of infant formula to see how we can make sure families across Canada get the formula they need.
Additionally, Health Canada has published an interim policy, which has been extended until December 31st 2023, to facilitate the importation of equivalent infant formulas from other countries that have high quality and manufacturing standards similar to Canada. More than 70 products, including 9 regular infant formulas have been authorized over the past year for temporary importation under this policy, and the list of products eligible for importation continues to be updated regularly.
In late February, to alleviate pressures on families looking for lower-cost products, a new powdered regular formula, Similac Advance, approved for temporary importation started to appear on shelves at pharmacies and retailers across the country. Moreover, Health Canada has been reassured that there will be continued regular shipments of store brand formulas, including Kirkland and Parent's Choice with more coming to shelves over the coming weeks. To further help address the availability of more affordable formulas that families rely on, Health Canada is in constant communication with manufacturers to ensure supply of the same or comparable products is available.
Health Canada continues working closely with infant formula manufacturers to increase product supply, including those intended for hospitals and special medical use that are not available at retail. The Department also continues to collaborate with provinces and territories, and with the healthcare community, to minimize the impacts of this situation on Canadian families.
Types of infant formula
Regular infant formula
These types of products include non-hydrolyzed formulas for healthy babies and partially hydrolyzed formulas for babies with gastrointestinal discomfort. They are found on shelves in retail stores and pharmacies, and are also available to order through online retailers and on manufacturer websites.
Hypoallergenic infant formula
These types of products include extensively hydrolyzed formulas and amino acid-based formulas. For several months in 2022, these specialized products could only be purchased through a pharmacist.
Supplies of extensively hydrolyzed and amino acid-based formulas have now stabilized in Canada. Therefore, starting in late October 2022, certain extensively hydrolyzed products began returning to store shelves, at the discretion of manufacturers. The products that were imported from other countries during the shortage and that do not have a bilingual label will continue to be available for order at the pharmacy counter while supplies last. Bilingual labelling for these products is available on Health Canada's website and from your pharmacist.
Health Canada does not recommend extensively hydrolyzed formulas for:
- the prevention of food allergies. No formula has proven benefits for allergy prevention.
- infants with a sensitivity to lactose, unless they also have an allergy or other medical condition requiring these formulas.
What you can do if you cannot find your usual infant formula
There are alternatives if your usual formula is not available. Speak to your healthcare professional if you need help finding the best option for your situation. Speak to your pharmacist to order equivalent hypoallergenic products that are not found on shelves.
Also, some manufacturers have toll-free phone numbers or live chat features on their website that may provide assistance to locate their products.
- Try a different brand of formula if your usual product is unavailable.
- Consider a different size or format of infant formula that you are currently using.
- If your infant takes a specialized formula, please consult your healthcare provider.
- It's normal for infants to take time to adjust to a change in formula.
- Check the manufacturer's website for resources to locate a specific formula or call their customer service.
- Reserve specialized infant formulas for babies with allergies and medical conditions.
- Follow label instructions when preparing infant formula.
- If you are combining bottle-feeding and breastfeeding maintain or increase your breastmilk supply if you can.
- If you stopped breastfeeding within the past 6 weeks, and are able to still breastfeed, you may consider restarting.
- Make homemade infant formula. It can put your infant's health at serious risk.
- Dilute or water down your infant formula to extend its use. This dilutes the nutritional content of the formula and may result in your infant not getting the nutrition they need.
- Buy more infant formula than you need, especially hypoallergenic formula that infants with food allergies need.
- Use formula from other countries unless they are approved by Health Canada
- Use infant formula from unknown sources, such as online third parties.
- Use breast milk obtained online or directly from other individuals.
- Substitute infant formula for other beverages, like cow's milk, goat's milk, evaporated milk, fortified or unfortified plant-based beverages (like soy, oat, rice, almond, coconut, cashew).
Try a different formula
Health Canada understands that changing formulas for your child might create additional challenges for families. However, options are available for families who cannot locate their regular infant formula.
All infant formulas approved in Canada are safe and provide the nutrition your baby needs. Some infant formulas are available in several formats, such as powder, ready-to-feed, or liquid concentrate. In addition, some manufacturers are focusing production on larger size containers to increase output, so your usual formula may be available in a different container than you usually buy.
Talk to your doctor or healthcare provider first if your infant has allergies or medical conditions impacting their feeding, or if you have concerns.
If your baby used Nestlé Good Start Soothe and you can no longer find it due to the March 2023 recall, there are some alternate products with comparable features.
- Nestlé Good Start 1 & 2 (partially hydrolyzed)
- Nestlé Good Start Plus 1 & 2 (partially hydrolyzed)
- Enfamil Gentlease (partially hydrolyzed, low lactose)
- Parent's Choice Gentle+ (partially hydrolyzed, low lactose)
- Kirkland Signature for Babies Sensitive to Lactose (low lactose)
- Similac Sensitive Lactose Sensitivity (low lactose)
Formula Switching Tips
Health Canada understands that changing formulas for your child might create additional challenges for families. However, some families find that these strategies can help their baby adjust to a new formula. Your healthcare provider can tell you if these or other strategies are right for you.
- Start gradually: Start by replacing a small amount of your baby's bottle with the new formula, and gradually increase that amount at each feeding. Make sure to follow the instructions on the label for each formula to prepare and store them appropriately.
- Be patient: It's normal for infants to take time adjusting to a new formula. They may become gassy or fussy but this should improve in a few days.
Continue with a trial of any new formula for at least 7 to 14 days unless severe symptoms occur, such as:
- immediate vomiting
- difficulty breathing
- generalized hives
- loss of consciousness
- noticeable weight loss
- severe diarrhea (sometimes with blood in poop)
Speak to a healthcare provider
Discuss your baby's needs with a qualified healthcare professional, such as a:
- registered dietitian
- nurse practitioner
They can help recommend possible formula substitutes and strategies to transition them into your baby's diet.
If you cannot access your regular health care provider for timely advice, contact the Telehealth service in your province or territory or speak to your local pharmacist.
Speak to a pharmacist
Some extensively hydrolyzed and amino acid-based formulas can only be ordered at the pharmacy counter. Talk to your pharmacist to learn about these products.
Health Canada provided information to support pharmacists, including:
- A list of all hypoallergenic infant formula that can be found during the shortage
- Product information to help them find these formulas with their distributor(s)
- Label information in both official languages for formulas being imported from other countries
Once you order hypoallergenic formula from your pharmacist, it may take a few days for them to receive the order. It is best to reach out to your pharmacist before you run out of supply.
Feed your baby safely
Do not try to make homemade infant formula. It can put your infant's health at serious risk. Commercial infant formula contains many important nutrients that can't be recreated at home. Follow label instructions for preparing infant formula.
Do not dilute or water down your infant formula to extend its use. This dilutes the nutritional content of the formula and can put your infant's health at risk.
Other beverages are not substitutes for infant formula. This includes:
- cow's milk
- goat's milk
- evaporated milk
- Fortified or unfortified plant- based beverages (like soy, oat, rice, almond, coconut, cashew)
These substitutes do not meet the nutritional needs of infants.
Health Canada does not recommend using human breast milk obtained online or directly from other individuals.
There is also generally no need to keep using formula if your child is healthy and over 12 months old.
Report a problem or mistake on this page
- Date modified: